Vocational pathways to STEM skills shortages

Apprenticeship Support Australian General Manager, James Moran, is calling for a cultural shift in thinking about the relevance of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills to focus away from the purely academic to practical ways they can be generated and deployed in the workplace.

“Recent high-profile reports and government policy announcements have made it clear that STEM skills are crucial to Australia’s future economic prosperity,” Mr Moran said today.

“However, with fewer high-school students electing to take subjects[1] in these disciplines it’s clear the message about the relevance of STEM subjects to careers is not getting through.  One way to overcome this is to offer students more opportunities to apply STEM knowledge learned in the classroom to solve real problems and create solutions for real businesses – ideally through school-based traineeships and apprenticeships.”

Mr Moran says a greater uptake of school-based traineeships and apprenticeships will close the gap between the knowledge generated in the education system and the skills demanded by employers.

“Partnerships between schools, vocational education and training providers, industry groups and research organisations to provide motivated young people with opportunities to practise what they learn will develop a nimble, Australian talent pipeline equipped with the skills in demand from industry,” Mr Moran says.

“Knowledge and skills in the STEM disciplines are traditionally seen as highly academic fields and debate usually focuses on pathways between high school and university. Yet more than half of the population qualified in STEM disciplines had a vocational qualification, according to 2010–11 ABS data,” he says.

“Vocational Education and Training pathways provide a breadth of opportunities for students to pursue their interests and abilities in STEM with inquiry based, hands on learning, and the opportunity to solve real world problems.”

The Australian Government recently announced a commitment of an extra $12 million to restore the focus, and increase student uptake of, science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects in primary and secondary schools across the country.